Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Folk, blues and beyond

Just got in from an interesting evening...

Davy Graham is regularly described as a 'legend'- which I think roughly translates as 'didn't get paid as much as he should have, or as much as all those people who nicked his ideas'. Back in the day- early/mid '60's in case you were wondering- he released several albums that still get talked about in hushed tones among the acoustic guitar fraternity, and is regularly quoted as an influence by players as diverse as Bert Jansch and Jimmy Page. His best known composition 'Anji' has been recorded many times and is regularly used as music on T.V. (it's recently been the theme to the B.B.C. series 'Folk Britannia') and even your humble narrator has attempted to fingerpick his way through it with varying levels of success/competence on all too many occasions. Well-documented problems have meant that he's rarely been seen in public in recent years- so a chance to see him play was too good to miss. At our recent Burgess Hill gig I saw a poster for his show there the following evening- fortunately it also said he was playing in High Wycombe tonight...

First up, the excellently named John Smith. I hadn't seen his name before (if you see what I mean!) but now realise he's very much an up-and-coming name on the folk circuit. And it's easy to see why- an astounding player with a voice that a soul singer would be proud of, he employed a bewildering number of alternate tunings- I don't think he used standard tuning once- and coaxed some extraordinary sounds from his acoustic guitar, not least during 'Winter' where he played a drum beat, a bass line and harmonics with the guitar flat on his lap. Really. Oh and he did a cover version of 'No One Knows' by the Queens of the Stone Age. Definitely someone to keep an eye on, and worth seeing live if only for the looks on the faces of the guitarists in the audience.

After a few songs from manager/driver Mark Pavey (who was ok, but I wouldn't have liked to follow John Smith- thinking about it that's probably why Davy got him to go on!) it was time for the man himself. Dressed somewhat eccentrically but looking well he began on a nylon stung guitar, later switching to steel. He mixed classical music with traditional Irish jigs, sang blues, jazz and folk songs and he played pretty much how you'd expect a 67 year old Davy Graham to play i.e. occasionally excellently, mostly very well and sometimes not too good at all. The people behind us didn't seem too impressed, making sarcastic comments about what he might or might not have put into his arm before the show and eventually leaving before the end. I wonder how many lives they've changed, or how many musicians they've influenced, or how many times they've been called 'legendary'. Not too many I would say- they've probably never had an original thought in their lives, couldn't write a song or a piece of music if you put a gun to their bollocks (assuming they have any) and wouldn't know 'soul' if it shagged them up the arse sideways. Twice.

It's always the people who can't that think they know better than those who can isn't it?

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